A meta-ethnography of organisational culture in primary care medical practice

Suzanne Grant, Bruce Guthrie, Vikki Entwistle, Brian Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – Over the past decade, there has been growing international interest in shaping local organisational cultures in primary healthcare. However, the contextual relevance of extant culture assessment instruments to the primary care context has been questioned. The aim of this paper is to derive a new contextually appropriate understanding of the key dimensions of primary care medical practice organisational culture and their inter-relationship through a synthesis of published qualitative research.
Design/methodology/approach – A systematic search of six electronic databases followed by a synthesis using techniques of meta-ethnography involving translation and re-interpretation.
Findings – A total of 16 papers were included in the meta-ethnography from the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand that fell into two related groups: those focused on practice organisational characteristics and narratives of practice individuality; and those focused on sub-practice variation across professional, managerial and administrative lines. It was found that primary care organisational culture was characterised by four key dimensions, i.e. responsiveness, team hierarchy, care philosophy and communication. These dimensions are multi-level and inter-professional in nature, spanning both practice and sub-practice levels.
Research limitations/implications – The research contributes to organisational culture theory development. The four new cultural dimensions provide a synthesized conceptual framework for researchers to evaluate and understand primary care cultural and sub-cultural levels.
Practical implications – The synthesised cultural dimensions present a framework for practitioners to understand and change organisational culture in primary care teams.
Originality/value – The research uses an innovative research methodology to synthesise the existing qualitative research and is one of the first to develop systematically a qualitative conceptual framing of primary care organisational culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-40
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Health Organization & Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • meta-ethnography
  • organisational culture
  • primary care


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